The Cost of Efficiency

Time for a little story,

Once upon a time, my sister and I were given some money to spend on some food. So of course, the question became, “Where do we go?” As soon as I heard there was a Red Robin in the area, I knew my destiny. So we drove twenty minutes off campus and parked in the signature Red Robin parking lot. When we got inside, a waitress took us to our seats, prompted us to order our drinks and then pointed to a  little contraption sitting on the table. This little black tablet was designed to take our orders without waiter assistance. We could order our food at the literal press of a button (Yes, I’m counting touch-screens as buttons for the sake of that phrase). Of course, we didn’t really like that, so we tried to call her back whenever we could. Finally, after finishing our meals we decided to get desert and we flagged our waitress down. After telling her what we wanted, she reached over, and plugged our order into that little machine.

Before I start pointing out why this bothers me, let me just acknowledge that this piece of technology isn’t a bad idea. To be fair, in a busy restaurant like Red Robin, to have a server available at all times just isn’t feasible. However, my concern stems from when people start opting to only interact with the machine. Look at grocery stores, those new self check-out machines are growing in popularity (to my knowledge) while cashier registers gather dust. What will people do when technology replaces them in the workplace? We are growing ever closer to this “tipping-point” and I don’t think people have realized it. I site the waitress using the very technology that makes her obsolete to support this obliviousness.

Now I’m not arguing to remove this technology. I personally like having the option to order without having to flag someone down. I also understand the practicality of this piece of technology. Yet, I find it hard to believe that both of these options will be able to coexist for long. What does this mean for my dream of being a cashier at my local grocery store? I guess we’ll have to wait and see. maxresdefault

 

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Hierarchy of Needs

It’s always interesting to see how your courses overlap even though they may seem unrelated, and even though I’ve only been here two semesters it happens all the time. Right now I am in a Psychology class, and of course the IDEAS seminar, and in the seminar we talked about an idea in psychology that I just heard about earlier that week in the class. It was on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and the idea that there is a pyramid of needs that humans wish to fill, starting from the base level of food, shelter, water and working up to the peak of is self-actualization.Maslow's_hierarchy_of_needs

It was brought up that technology is being used as our companions and friends as an attempt to fill our hierarchy of needs, beyond the physiological base, in order to reach self-actualization. This was brought up as being an issue if people start to try and fill the levels of belonging and esteem before they meet their physiological needs. Also, people now aren’t looking to human friendships and interactions to fill those higher levels, but to technology, and does that pose an issue for the future of our social world?

In what ways should our needs be met, and should we make sure they are in the order that Maslow created?

The Good Life

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Exam week is around the corner here at Lehigh and once again people are on the verge of complete emotional collapse. Whenever I run into my sister on campus these days our conversation always seems to end with “Dan, fix my life.” This got me thinking, what exactly would constitute as “fixing” someone’s life?

In the society we live in, there seems to be this general idea that the so-called “good-life” consists of a strict daily regiment of lounging on a beach in Tahiti. There would be no debt, financial struggles, responsibilities of any sort, or even conflict. Essentially, we are obsessed with Kenny Chesney’s immortal lyrics “No shoes, no shirt, no problems.” Yet, we are so absorbed in this endeavor to escape reality, we don’t really think about what it would actually be like.

Aside from the constant need for sunscreen, we’d be in a world with no reason to do anything. Without deadlines and without the need to work for survival, we’d have no motivation to do anything. Sure, you could go surfing for a while, but what would be the point? In the same way that we outgrew Miley Cyrus and Bieber, things that seemed exciting and crazy would eventually sink to mediocrity.

As humans, we have an incredible capacity to lose interest in things that are commonplace. What does this mean for our “Good-life”? Perhaps we will still dream of palm trees and sandy beaches, but ultimately, that is one dream that doesn’t need to become a reality.

The Working Machine

It’s the middle of exam season and everyone is stressed. Like most sane people, I’ve been clinging to the idea of “a better time.” To me this is my summer break and all that glorious relaxation. Yet, the other day I realized, I’m going to need to get a job over the summer. With that in mind, I’ve been thinking about what it will be like working over break, and I can’t help but make parallels to some things from seminar.

In the last movie we watched, we got a great look into industrial China. The first 8 minutes of the movie is just the camera slowly panning across the massive factory. We watched as hundreds of people did tiny, insignificant jobs in quick succession. Tightening a wire here, bolting something there. All in all, it was like watching the golf channel… literally, anything else would have been more interesting.400px-Seagate_Wuxi_China_Factory_Tour

Watching these people doing these tedious, machine-like functions got me thinking. Why don’t we just have a machine doing this? It’d be faster and more efficient. So why is it R2-D2 isn’t doing this for us? Well, ignoring the exuberant cost of the machine, we probably just want to keep people in the workforce and with jobs. That being said, the way capitalism works, all those jobs will most likely vanish in the near future so some big business hot-shot can make a “pretty-penny”?

At a certain point industry will likely be completely dominated by machines. As it stands, there is already a significant demand for jobs and this will only make that demand grow. As much as I love capitalism as a whole, I feel like it’s going to run us into a very thick, very brick, wall. That will hurt. Do we need to re-evaluate our current economic/industrial system? Which leads me to the point of all of this: Will I be able to get a job over summer break?

 

*This unmodified picture is from:

The End of Reality

For the next thirty seconds I’m going to pretend to be the host of a wildly successful game show and you will be my honored guest.*Ahem*

“Ladies and gentlemen! Welcome back to ‘would you rather?’ the best game show of 2016. I’m your host, Dan the Fantastic, and standing beside me is <insert your name here>. Will you all please greet our guest of honor?”

*Massive amounts of loud clapping ensues*

“Alright, I think that’s enough. Let’s get this started. As you know I’m going to ask you a question and you have ten seconds to answer it. During this time, the crowd will also select their answer and if you agree with them you win a brand new <insert generic car brand name here> ! Doesn’t that sound wonderful?”

*More frantic clapping*

“Without further adieu, here we go. ‘Would you rather: spend your days toiling about in a generic office setting, filing paperwork, or *pause for dramatic effect* would you like to pilot a spaceship into the heat of a battle where the fate of the known galaxy relies on your skills, and your skills alone?”

–End Game Show Section–

Now, that was a bit excessive, I’ll admit it. Yet if you stuck with me and answered that question, you probably chose the latter of the two options. Now sure, working at a desk and having a steady job is incredibly respectable, so if you chose that, you probably made the smart choice. Yet, there is a growing number of people who would pick the second choice simply because of a desire to escape mundane reality.

I recently became aware of the existence of something called the Oculus Rift. This new gizmo is placed over your eyes, like a large awkward pair of glasses, and pulls you into a pseudo-virtual world. It’s not perfect, but from my experience, the visual sensations are pretty convincing. As much as I love technology and this new advancement in general, I once again find myself hesitating slightly.

In my experience, I’ve found that there are a growing number of people who dedicate a significant portion of their lives to certain video games. They’re the people who will spend weeks living inside a game. They will spend days cultivating relationships, friendships,
and even romances in the virtual world with computer generated characters. Now, there isn’t really anything inherently wrong with this. The problem arises from a fact that I find indisputable for a person like this. At a certain point, this person is more living their virtual life than there physical life. Doing so undoubtedly throws there perspective on reality into question. So what will happen to these people when a new technology exis
ts that allows for an even more immersive experience? Trying to live in this world is hard enough. Trying to live in two… well… I don’t know if it can truly be done. When the lines between fantasy and reality become indistinguishable, what will our world look like?

The Oculus Rift headset is tested by attendees at the Eurogamer Expo at Earls Court in London.

This Unmodified Picture is from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bagogames/13944710577

Littered in Waste

Do me a favor, go look out the nearest window. In fact, open that window up and take a nice deep breath of fresh air. Did your lungs just fill with noxious fumes? Are your eyes burning red from the sting of rancid air? I should hope not.

Now, I’m not a major advocate for save the planet regimes. I’ll even go as far to admit that I rarely recycle. Yet, there comes a point when even I start to get worried for the future of the Earth; even if it is for selfish reasons. I hate to break it to everyone out there, unless we pull a Matt Damon and start colonizing Mars, we need the Earth to survive.

This last seminar I was exposed to a production entitled “Manufactured Landscape.” In typical Prof. Best fashion, he once again managed to pick a film that would mess me up in the head. Throughout the first hour (we’re only half-way through at this point) I watched as photograph after photograph flew by. Most were of living and working conditions in certain areas of China. One of the most powerful/haunting/moving/tear-jerking images was that of an old woman sitting on her front porch. Surrounding her tiny little abode was a massive pile of industrial waste packed into little cubes; like you saw in the movie Wall-E. It’s one of those images that makes you lose a little faith in humanity. Then, later, there was an image of a massive ship sitting in the middle of a muddy landscape. Maybe there was something wrong with it, I don’t know. Yet the most concerning part of all this is that we just left it sitting there. This massive testament to the skill we have as engineers and as an intelligent people was left sitting out to rot. Tossed aside for someone else to deal with.

At a certain point people have to realize that we need to start taking steps to fix the mistakes we are making. As a people we have always been great at pointing out our flaws and mistakes, but we are the worst went it comes to actually doing something about it. So, what are we going to do about this? What are you going to do?

*Dramatically shoots wad of paper into recycle bin*

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This unmodified picture is from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/juditk/8458066018

 

 

For the Sake of Convenience

Recently, something very dear to me suffered a severe injury. Aside from prompting frequent mental debates about the frailty of human existence and other subjects of that ilk, I find myself frustrated more than anything else. This frustration bothers me. Yes that may seem a bit redundant at first, but my problem is not so much the actual frustration, more so the fact that this event cause me to get frustrated so easily. Which is frustrating. I suppose I should start at the beginning…

About a week ago my friends and I were watching a wonderfully brilliant show starring world renowned actor Zach Levi (if you don’t know what show he is in, look it up, and then thank me later). At the very end of the show, I pull out my phone to text my sister. However, for some reason my phone remains dark. I press the home but again. Nothing. I’ll admit, I got a bit panicky. This was a relatively new phone and I rely on it heavily for college life. After a few minutes of button mashing, I realize I can use the button on the top of my phone to start my phone back up. After a few searches on the internet, my friend discovered how to indirectly fix my home button problem by adding a virtual button to the screen at all times.

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Now sure, this may seem like a trivial little problem. My home button no longer works, big deal. Yet, it’s incredibly frustrating to reflexively use the home button, have nothing happen, realize it doesn’t work anymore, and press the onscreen button. This finally brings me to what has been bugging me.

People these days hate the inconvenient. We are so used to instantaneous gratification that when something forces us out of our routine, we blow a gasket. BOOM. What does this mean for us as a society? If we continue to grow and become more and more reliant on technology and it’s convenience, what will separate us from the machines that regulate our lives?

 

*the unmodified image is from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:IPhone_4_top_and_sides.JPG